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Grad theater group involves audience in creative process

Play on stage
Kiki Hosie ‘17, top, and Connor McGrath ‘15 take part in an Association of Graduates in Theatre Lab event in March. Graduate students and undergrads showcased plays and involved audience members in discussions about the creative process.

Sex, death, bad girls and vampires: Such were the topics explored by the Association of Graduates in Theatre (AGIT) in an AGIT Lab event held in March at the Schwartz Center.

AGIT is a newly revived group of graduate students in the field of theater arts, and acts as a forum for students to share their scholarly work and artistic processes with the Cornell campus.

The labs also provide a space for graduate students to involve the audience in the creative process, said Erin Stoneking, a doctoral student in the field of theater arts and member of the group. The most recent lab, for example, explored themes of the gothic and the spectacular, sexuality and gender, along with questions concerning what it means to be a “celebrity” or a “good girl” vs. a “bad girl.”

Following the performances, students encourage the audience to engage in informal conversations about the works by asking them to pose questions and talk about their impressions of the plays, Stoneking said. By involving the audience in the creative process, students can better understand how the audience is reading or processing their plays, she said.

In the fall, AGIT will hold its annual 10-Minute Playfest featuring five or six plays written by undergraduates. Following submission and selection, the graduate students and the undergraduate dramaturges – who research plays and provide insight or criticism – continue to develop and expand the selected plays together until the arrival of the two-week rehearsal period.

The playfest is an “exciting opportunity [for graduate students] to work with undergraduates,” Stoneking said. “Often we feel holed up in our office grading papers, and the 10-Minute Playfest allows us to get to know the undergrads better and further them creatively.”

The playfest also allows students who are not Performing and Media Arts (PMA) majors to get involved in theater. Because of the short two-week rehearsal period, non-PMA majors can experiment in the field without a big time commitment.

Submissions for the fall 2015 Playfest are due Friday, April 17; auditions will take place in the beginning of the fall semester. To submit a play, send it as a word or PDF document to Erin Stoneking in standard format, with a title page listing all contact details. There are no restrictions on topic or form. More on the submissions is available here.

Agnes Shin ’18 is a communications assistant in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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